SAN DIEGO -- Eight outings, seven quality starts, seven wins.
That's the updated road resume for Rangers starter Matt Harrison after his 2-1 victory over the Padres on Monday night, a win that gives Harrison nine on the season, tied for tops in the American League. The lefty turned in yet another stellar performance for first-place Texas, giving up just one run on six hits in six innings to propel the Rangers to their fourth straight win and eighth in their past 10 games.
Making that win streak more impressive for the Rangers is the fact that all four came without leading All-Star vote-getter Josh Hamilton in the starting lineup. The outfielder returned to action as a defensive replacement in the ninth inning of Monday's game after battling a stomach virus that cost him part or all of five games -- and about 10 pounds -- since Thursday.
But it was Harrison who was the story Monday night, as he bolstered his already strong case for a place on the AL All-Star roster.
It certainly wasn't clear from the start that this game would be one to brag about for the All-Star hopeful. The Padres smacked three consecutive hits to start the game, including a Chase Headley double that drove in the Padres' run and put an end to Harrison's 16 1/3-inning scoreless streak. Prior to that Headley double, the 26 year-old had not given up a run since June 3 against the Angels.
"It was definitely a battle from the get-go: first inning, three leadoff hits -- fortunately I was able to make some pitches and get out of that," Harrison said. "By the third or fourth I was starting to find a rhythm, find my release point a little better."
Harrison cruised through those third and fourth innings, retiring seven straight Padres at one point before the sixth, when back-to-back singles from Headley and Carlos Quentin gave San Diego a promising start. But even without his best stuff, Harrison battled, getting Jesus Guzman to line to center before striking out Everth Cabrera. After walking Nick Hundley to load the bases with two outs, Harrison induced a weak ground ball from pinch-hitter Yonder Alonso to escape the jam unscathed.
"I thought he was pretty good," Rangers manager Ron Washington said of Harrison. "There in the sixth he got in trouble, but he gutted it out and got us out of everything."
Mark Lowe, Mike Adams and Joe Nathan held the Padres to just three hits in three combined scoreless innings to nail down the win for Harrison. Adams stranded a pair of runners in the eighth in his first appearance in San Diego since he was sent to the Rangers in a deal at last season's Trade Deadline.
And though this type of success isn't new for the man who went 14-9 with a 3.39 ERA in 2011, the Rangers believe they are watching Harrison grow into a star before their eyes.
"He's growing up big time," Washington said. "The last four weeks he's decided that he was going to put his stamp on things."
"What was his ERA last year? Three-something? You do that in the American League, you're doing work," veteran infielder Michael Young said. "He's young, he's left-handed, he's got power stuff. The future is very bright for the guy."
Even Headley, who had two hits off Harrison en route to a three-hit performance in the loss, was impressed with the young hurler's stuff.
"He was as advertised," Headley said. "We knew he was going to be tough, and I thought he came out and threw the ball really well."
He had to, as the Rangers' could not build on the two runs they scored in the first. A slow roller misplayed by Padres second baseman Alexi Amarista began the Rangers' scoring rally, and two Jason Marquis walks loaded the bases with two outs for David Murphy, who poked a seeing-eye single through the middle of the infield to bring home the only two runs the Rangers would score, as Marquis settled in to strike out 10 Rangers in seven innings and yield just three more hits after the first.
And while it may have been the last-place Padres in the other dugout, that Harrison clung to that one-run lead to win what Washington called a "good pitcher's duel" showed a kind of big-game mettle that is not lost on his teammates.
"With young pitching, there's always a learning curve, and the good thing for our young pitchers is they develop a lot of big game experience," Young said. "He and our other pitchers have really learned, and now we are seeing how good they have really become."
Chelsea Janes is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.